Parents in South Carolina were less than amused when their children were sent home from Indian Land Elementary School on Sept. 27 with fliers for a beauty pageant that stated “Contestants will be judged on facial beauty, personality and overall appeal.”
The pageant, which has now been canceled, caused quite a stir online when one parent, Dave Dodson, 38, of Fort Mill, S.C., created a Facebook page to voice his concerns about the fact their children would be judged on their “facial beauty.”
The “Say ‘No!’ to Indian Land Elementary Warrior School Pageant” page encouraged other parents to speak out and stand up for their children to not participate in the school’s event.
“We started the Facebook page to see if we were the only ones that felt this way, and there was a pretty overwhelming response,” Dodson told ABC News. “We wanted to gauge the feeling of the community to see if everyone was as upset as we were. We had around 100 likes within three hours.”
Once the page’s response was large enough to confirm Dodson’s concerns, he emailed the school’s principal, who canceled the pageant the very next day.
“The school’s been great and we’re more than pleased with the fact they cancelled it. But a school shouldn’t be involved in a beauty pageant. Physical beauty is not something you should judge people over,” Dodson said. “Teach our kids to look beyond appearance, focus on what makes them tick.”
And now that the school has canceled the event, Dodson said: “The school has stood up really well and said this is not the way they want to be represented.”
Tracy Hyland, one of the pageant organizers, said she thinks the whole situation has been blown out of proportion.
“What really frustrates me is they need to look at the big picture. It was just an opportunity for a fundraiser for local people to get together for the children. Nothing like ‘Honey Boo Boo’ or ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’ just kids coming on in their school clothes, waving to mom and dad in the audience, winning a title,” Hyland said.
The event was originally created to raise money for a $15,000 piece of equipment to be donated to the school, in honor of a faculty member who had passed away. The pageant was also going to be held at a local church because the school does not have an auditorium.
Hyland, 52, of Fort Mill, S.C, admits she did make one mistake on the flyer.
“My mistake, and I’ll admit it, is that I did not put on there it was a fundraiser. And because I failed to do so, I created my own personal fire storm,” Hyland said. “But the fact that in order to be politically correct, someone has stood up and said we can’t do this, and now they’re telling me a hobby I’ve done with my child for 20 years is wrong, that upsets me more than anything.”
Some people in favor of the pageant have compared the event to other less controversial school activities, such as sports, but Dodson said he doesn’t think that is a fair argument.
“The pro-pageant folks are saying this is no different than football or swimming. The differences are those are things where people are based on their skills, it’s not just a subjective judgment of something you really can’t change all that much,” Dodson said. “Think about the kids that already have body issues, or a deformity, or something that stands out. Something they don’t feel particularly proud of, now they’re being excluded.”
“We were trying to do something for the community, and it has now been taken away. And the children are losing. All because someone decided it was wrong,” Hyland said.
“If you don’t agree with it, don’t do it. Don’t participate,” she added.
Indian Lake Elementary School said “no one is available” for comment on this story.